Color Exploration

Simplicity in the Art of McArthur Binion


McArthur Binion has been creating colorful works of art and exploring the medium of "crayons" for approximately 37 years. Some of his works bring to life his family’s transition from tenant farmers in the south to factory workers in the north; others are explorations of color with crayons and, most recently, inks. His art is both simple and complex, geometrical and abstract, and colorful and historical. Read more

Exhibit Dates

November 1, 2010–February 28, 2011


Arts Program Gallery
UMUC Inn and Conference Center, Lower Level
3501 University Blvd East
Adelphi, MD 20783

To request additional information, please call 301-985-7937.


About the Artist

McArthur Binion is an artist on a mission to create great art, to document his family history, and to make his medium a recognizable art form.  

McArthur BinionBinion was born in Macon, Mississippi in 1946. He lived with his father, Rev. Earl Binion and mother, Martha Garden Binion in a three-room house—a house common for low-income families throughout the south at the time. At a young age, McArthur Binion learned the power of working with his hands by working along side his sister in the cotton fields of Mississippi. Determined to make a better life for his family, Earl Binion left his family to seek prosperous beginning in Detroit, Michigan. Approximately a year later, his wife and family joined him in Detroit in 1951. Binion was 5 years old. While his father worked at the automotive plant, his mother raised their eleven children and cleaned houses as a domestic worker five days a week. Binion was enrolled at Alexander MacDowell Elementary School. His first day of school in Chicago was marked with the amazement of seeing a very large “painting”—Binion's first memory of seeing a painting.  

In 1965, Binion began his undergraduate education at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Free spirited and determine to change the status quo, he didn't remain at the university long. After one year, he transferred to Wayne State University. He took courses there for one quarter, but left to decide what he wanted to do with his life. He moved to New York City, where he was employed as an associate editor for the Huryou Act Magazine. His boss sent him on assignment at the Modern Museum of Art. It was the first time that he had visited the Museum, and it would prove to have a profound effect on him. After completing his assignment, he spent time touring the museum, during which he definitively decided that he wanted to be a painter/artist. He returned to Wayne State University to complete his undergraduate degree. In 1971, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. In 1973, he became the first African American to graduate from Cranbrook Academy of Art with a Master of Fine Arts degree.  

Binion chose crayon as his medium to create works of art. He continued to experiment with crayon, and it was not until he won the outstanding painting award and a purchase award from the Detroit Institute of Art while he was a graduate student at Cranbrook that he felt certain that he had made the right choice.  

Armed with a graduate degree and his medium of choice, Binion moved back to New York to teach art at Ramapo State College, now Ramapo State University. Surrounded by visual artists, musicians, and writers who were working as full-time artists, Binion departed Ramapo State University after two years to become a full-time visual artist. His art is both simple and complex and, at first glance, seems elementary. Yet, the final outcome is serial, complex, cultural, liberating, innovative, and eccentric. Some of his works bring to life his family’s transition from tenant farmers of the south to factory workers in the north. Yet, others are geometrical exploration of color with crayons and, most recently, inks.  

In 1993, Binion moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he resides today. He is currently a professor of art at Columbia College in Chicago. He has been the visiting artist and guest lecturer at Oberlin College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has received the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant, a New York C.E.T.A. Artist Project Grant, and a Werbe Award from the Detroit Institute of Arts. He has completed commission projects for the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the John Golden Theatre. His works are in private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and have been exhibited throughout the world. Binion has been creating colorful works of art and exploring the medium of crayons for approximately 37 years. His works are both simple and complex, geometrical and abstract, and colorful and historical. UMUC is proud to present an examination of color and the material of color crayons in "Color Exploration: Simplicity in the Art of McArthur Binion."  

Eric Key
UMUC Art Director  

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